More Complex than Previously Thought – Part XII – Cellular Movement

Research out of Brown University has found that cells move in ways that are much more complex than previously thought.  It’s yet another example of the complexity of life’s design that consistently surprises biologists.

“We’ve learned that cells move in much more complex ways than previously believed,” said Christian Franck, assistant professor in engineering at Brown and the co-lead author of the study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Now, we can start to really put numbers on how much cells push and pull on their environment and how much cells stick to tissues as they move around and interact.”

In the study, Franck and co-lead author Stacey Maskarinec, who both conducted the experiments while graduate students at the California Institute of Technology, placed cells on top of a 50-micron-thick water-based gel designed to mimic human tissue. They added into the gel spheres about a half-micron in diameter that lit up when jostled by the cells’ actions. By combining two techniques — laser scanning confocal microscopy and digital volume correlation — the scientists tracked the cells’ movement by quantifying exactly how the environment changed each time the cell moved. The team recorded results every 35 minutes over a 24-hour period.

What they found was cells move in intriguing ways. In one experiment, a cell is clearly shown operating in three dimensions by extending feelers into the gel, probing at depth, as if thrusting a leg downward in a pool. The Brown and Caltech scientists also found that as a cell moves, it engages in a host of push-pull actions: It redistributes its weight, it coils and elongates its body, and it varies the force with which it “grips,” or adheres, to a surface. Combined, the actions help the cell generate momentum and create a “rolling motion,” as Franck described it, that is more like walking than shuffling, as many scientists had previously characterized the movement.

“The motion itself is in three dimensions,” Franck said.

Brown University (2009, December 17). Cells move in mysterious ways, experiments reveal. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 17, 2009.

The God Gene Redux

Darwinists of all stripes can hardly refrain from evolutionary storytelling when it comes to human psychology.  Not surprisingly, they focus largely on their opponents–those who have faith in God.  The recent work by archeologists Joyce Marcus and Kent Flannery seems to follow the familiar template.1  Start with an actual study, then speculate wildly about how natural selection brought about the observed results.

During 15 years of excavation they have uncovered not some monumental temple but evidence of a critical transition in religious behavior. The record begins with a simple dancing floor, the arena for the communal religious dances held by hunter-gatherers in about 7,000 B.C. It moves to the ancestor-cult shrines that appeared after the beginning of corn-based agriculture around 1,500 B.C., and ends in A.D. 30 with the sophisticated, astronomically oriented temples of an early archaic state.

This and other research is pointing to a new perspective on religion, one that seeks to explain why religious behavior has occurred in societies at every stage of development and in every region of the world. Religion has the hallmarks of an evolved behavior, meaning that it exists because it was favored by natural selection. It is universal because it was wired into our neural circuitry before the ancestral human population dispersed from its African homeland.

For atheists, it is not a particularly welcome thought that religion evolved because it conferred essential benefits on early human societies and their successors. If religion is a lifebelt, it is hard to portray it as useless.

For believers, it may seem threatening to think that the mind has been shaped to believe in gods, since the actual existence of the divine may then seem less likely.

In case you missed it before, I think John Cleese’s work in this area is as good or better than any other Darwinist speculating in this area.


Whence Scientific Hypotheses?

Scientific hypotheses can come from anywhere at all (well actually just from an intelligent mind).  One important thing I learned about science in graduate school was, it did not matter where your hypothesis originated, it only mattered that it could be tested and falsified in a rigorous, repeatable, and measurable way.  Scientific notions can arise from any metaphysical framework or lack of a framework.  At the basis of creationism and naturalistic evolution are presumed metaphysical truths.  Quite possibly, neither of which can be falsified, leaving the resolution to be a matter of faith.  However, that does not prevent scientists from developing testable hypotheses that spring from those underlying beliefs.  One could argue that intelligent design has fewer metaphysical entanglements than either creationism or naturalistic evolution.  The point is that testable hypotheses may come from almost any underlying belief or idea, whereas the actual underlying belief or idea itself may not be a scientific hypothesis.

Recent Work in Creation Science

Jerry Bergman has written an article on CMI entitled, Did immune system antibody diversity evolve?

From the article:

The voluminous research on the evolution of the adaptive immune system describes in enormous detail both the similarities and differences between the immune systems of a wide variety of animals, but does not provide evidence for the evolution of these irreducibility complex systems. The complex, designed processes used to produce antibody diversity and then to fine tune the adaptive immune response are not evidence of Darwinian evolution, but rather of intelligent design.

Recent work has also shown that innate immune systems formerly thought to be very primitive are far more complex than once believed, blurring ‘traditional distinctions between adaptive and innate immunity.’38 Various phyla use ‘a remarkably extensive variety of solutions to meet fundamentally similar requirements for host protection.’37 The large discontinuity between the various means of generating immune system diversity in the animal kingdom makes it highly unlikely that one system could have evolved into another.

Creation scientists have also been hard at work in generating theoretical frameworks and hypotheses on a number of fronts.

1). A framework has been developed for explaining bacterial pathogenicity.

2). Fungi have been examined from a creationist perspective, and natural selection is considered as a process for the development of pathogenicity.  Similar to the first paper, evolutionary processes are considered corrupting influences of the original designs.

3). Initial work has been done on developing a field of creation microbiology.  Promising areas for future research and practical applications are also considered.

While those who pontificate about the absence of any real scientific progress being made from a creationist perspective, creation scientists are laying the groundwork for biological studies, and are generating testable scientific hypotheses.  Whereas materialist scientist do not often recognize their metaphysical assumptions, creationist scientists and IDers are generally much more aware of the metaphysical assumptions of science on both sides of the issue.

A Naturalistic Fairy Tale – Part XXIX

The Multiverse

The Multiverse

Then did we, the Most High Scientist, through the use of calculations and formulas, imagine that there exists a great many more universes in the multiverse than we had previously imagined.  We did previously imagine through string theory that there are 10500 universes in the multiverse.  One of our Most High, Andrei Linde, did recently imagine through calculations that there are many more than 10500 universes in the multiverse (Praise Science).1 And let us first tell you why we do feel this is important.

“The idea that there is more than one universe, each with its own laws of physics, arises out of several different theories, including string theory and cosmic inflation. This concept of a “multiverse” could explain a puzzling mystery – why dark energy, the furtive force that is accelerating the expansion of space, appears improbably fine-tuned for life. With a large number of universes, there is bound to be one that has a dark energy value like ours.”

That pesky fine tuning might suggest to the less evolved of our species that universe may have been created or evidence hallmarks of design.  Of course we know that is ridiculous, as is attested to by our vivid imaginations.  And so, we endeavor to explain one “furtive” unmeasurable thing (dark energy) by invoking a larger quantity of unmeasurable things (even more universes).  Because if we do know anything at all, that is there is no design in the universe(s).  And we know you would have to agree, that with a great number of universes, “there is bound to be one that has a dark energy value like ours.”

So, we do now appeal to the god of chance, and evoke randomness in all its power and glory as is provided by quantum mechanics.  We do now calculate the existence of 1010^10,000,000 universes (Praise Science)!  We know how much you like large numbers, and have no doubt you are in awe of the large number we have invoked here.  We’ll also speculate a bit that an hypothetical observer determines how many universes can effectively exist because of quantum mechanical effects, but don’t be concerned, because that’s a really large number as well. We do hope you’ve been pleased by our Science and that you continue to be impressed by the power of randomness and imagination.  Rest assured, all of the appearance of design and fine tuning can, and will continue to be, explained away by chance and imagination.

1 Multiplying universes: How many is the multiverse? NewScientist, October 28, 2009.

More Complex than Previously Thought – Part IX – The Ribosome

The ribosome is a nanomolecular factory that uses genetic instructions and amino acids to build proteins.  If the previous understanding of the functions of the ribosome were not enough evidence for design, new technology has enabled researchers capture nanoscale movements inside the structure and found that the functioning of the ribosome was complicated than previously thought.1

In the protein manufacturing process, the genetic code – or instruction manual – for making proteins lies inside a cell’s double-stranded DNA. When the cell needs to produce more proteins, the DNA unzips into two separate strands, exposing the protein code so it can be duplicated by single-stranded messenger RNA (mRNA). The mRNA dutifully delivers that code to the ribosome, which somehow reads the instructions, or “data tape,” as each amino acid is added to a growing protein chain.

At the same time, other RNA molecules, called transfer RNA (tRNA), bring to the ribosome amino acids, the raw building blocks needed for protein construction.

To help elucidate the ribosome’s movements as it interacts with mRNA and tRNA, the researchers used X-ray crystallography to obtain a highly detailed picture of the ribosome – a mere 21 nanometers wide – from an Escherichia coli bacterium. In addition to revealing atomic level detail, the technique allowed the researchers to capture the ribosome mid-action, a challenge because it acts fast, adding 20 new amino acids to a protein chain every second.

“Scientists used to think that the ribosome made a simple two-stage ratcheting motion by rotating back and forth as it interacts with mRNA and tRNA,” said Cate, who is also a member of the California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research (QB3) at UC Berkeley. “What we captured were images of the ribosome in intermediate stages between the rotations, showing that there are at least four steps in this ratcheting mechanism.”

“We suspect that the ribosome changes its conformation in so many steps to allow it to interact with relatively big tRNAs while keeping the two segments of the ribosome from flying apart,” said Cate. “It’s much more complicated than the simple ratcheting mechanism in a socket wrench.”

Cate said that while this study marked a major accomplishment in cracking open the “black box” of ribosomal function, there are far more details yet to be revealed. Advances in imaging techniques over the next decade should allow researchers to go beyond the snapshots taken in this study to high-resolution movies of a ribosome’s movements, he said. (emphasis mine)

1 New Images Capture Cell’s Ribosomes At Work, ScienceDaily, 8/23/09

Expelled Exposed…Exposed

From the website NCSE Exposed:

Of course critics of ID (like the folks at the NCSE) should have every right to publish their views within academic circles and should have the full protection of academic freedom. But academic freedom doesn’t just mean the freedom to agree with the predominant viewpoint. Academic freedom in science means nothing if it doesn’t include the right to hold legitimate minority scientific viewpoints. ID proponents have published serious scientific research in mainstream, credible academic venues. Many of them have sterling academic qualifications and accomplishments. They have earned the right to freely express their views without fear of intimidation or discrimination.

But free expression of pro-ID views in the academy is exactly what the NCSE doesn’t want. “Expelled Exposed” is now exposed for what it really is: it’s not just a website making the case against ID (which is perfectly fine if that’s what ID critics want to do)—it’s a website attempting to convince people that ID deserves no academic freedom. In other words, “Expelled Exposed” is an effort to encourage the further persecution of ID-proponents.

Ironically, by denying that professionally qualified ID proponents have a right to “a place in academia,” “Expelled Exposed” has justified the central thesis of the documentary Expelled, namely that qualified ID proponents do not receive academic freedom to hold, discuss, and promote their views within the academy.

I like the Discovery Institute more all the time based in part on the rabid hatred that many Darwinists have for this tiny organization. Can such intense fear and hatred come from a defense of “science” or is there something deeper going on?